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  • Friday, June 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria at a crossroads: Can a renewed constitution unlock a brighter future?

In an impassioned call for transformative change, Godswill Akpabio, president of the 10th Senate, has pledged that the National Assembly will produce a constitution that meets the collective aspirations of all Nigerians. This promise, made at the outset of a two-day retreat on constitutional review in Akwa Ibom State, reflects a critical moment in Nigeria’s journey towards a more inclusive and effective governance framework.

Akpabio’s remarks came during a retreat organised by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) and United Kingdom International Development. He urged federal lawmakers to be meticulous in the ongoing review process, emphasising that each bill and proposal deserves thorough consideration. His call to action underscores the importance of this review in shaping Nigeria’s future.

Read also: We are amending the constitution to meet collective aspirations of Nigerians Akpabio

The urgency of this task is underscored by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Review, Benjamin Kalu. He revealed that the committee is currently considering 305 proposals from citizens and 112 bills on various national issues. This overwhelming response highlights the public’s desire for change and the necessity for lawmakers to address these concerns diligently.

In a strong show of support, the 36 Speakers of State Houses of Assembly and the Akwa Ibom State government have backed crucial reforms such as the establishment of state police, resource control, and the decentralisation of power. These endorsements reflect a growing consensus on the need to adapt Nigeria’s governance structures to better serve its people.

Applauding the committee’s efforts, Akpabio emphasised the significance of this moment. “I believe that at the end of the day, the Senate and the House of Representatives will create a blueprint that guides us towards a more united and prosperous Nigeria,” he stated. His words resonate with the aspirations of millions who hope for a constitution that truly represents their hopes and dreams.

 “The amendment of the constitution is not just about governance; it’s also about aligning with current economic realities.”

This retreat marks the beginning of a challenging but vital journey. Akpabio’s call for lawmakers to rise to the occasion and answer the country’s call to duty is a powerful reminder that change will not occur if we passively wait for it. “We are the ones our country has been waiting for. We are the embodiment of the change our country needs,” he declared, urging his colleagues to take bold steps in shaping Nigeria’s future.

The Deputy Speaker, Kalu, highlighted critical areas of focus for the review process, including local government autonomy, judicial reforms, electoral matters, state policing, gender issues, and human rights. These thematic areas have been distributed among experts to ensure a comprehensive and informed approach to the constitutional amendments.

Kalu also detailed the committee’s extensive public engagement efforts, which include consultations with a wide range of stakeholders such as the judiciary, election bodies, women’s groups, traditional rulers, and civil society organisations. These engagements are crucial for ensuring that the revised constitution reflects the diverse perspectives and experiences of all Nigerians.

The amendment of the constitution is not just about governance; it’s also about aligning with current economic realities. As Kalu noted, modernising legal frameworks, enhancing institutional capacity, and fostering economic freedom are imperative for Nigeria’s economic growth. The committee’s efforts to engage with experts and stakeholders aim to address these challenges and create a more robust economic environment.

Governor Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom State, represented by his deputy, Senator Akon Eyakenyi, expressed strong support for state police and the devolution of powers. Highlighting the historical context of Nigeria’s centralised power structure, Eno emphasised the need for a more balanced federalism that allows states to leverage their unique resources for development.

Read also: Ibom deep sea port: Can Akpabio live up to his billing?

Similarly, Adebo Ogundoyin, Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria, reiterated the importance of issues such as state police, local government autonomy, and resource control. His commitment to collaborating with national and state leaders reflects the collective effort required to drive these crucial reforms.

As Nigeria embarks on this significant constitutional review, the nation stands at a crossroads. The successful completion of this process holds the promise of reshaping Nigeria’s governance landscape and catalysing broader transformation across West Africa. By prioritising projects and reforms that enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life for its citizens, Nigeria demonstrates its commitment to building a brighter future.

This editorial calls on all stakeholders—lawmakers, citizens, and leaders alike—to seize this transformative opportunity. The journey may be challenging, demanding open minds, constructive dialogue, and a willingness to compromise. However, the potential rewards are immense. A more united, prosperous, and equitable Nigeria will not only benefit its own citizens but also serve as a beacon of hope and stability for the entire West African region.

To achieve this vision, lawmakers must prioritise proposals that address the core needs of the people. Public engagement efforts should continue, ensuring all voices are heard and considered. Citizens, for their part, must remain actively involved, holding their representatives accountable and offering their ideas for a better future. Leaders across all levels of government must demonstrate a commitment to collaboration and progress, putting aside personal agendas for the collective good.

By working together, Nigerians have the power to shape a constitution that truly reflects the aspirations of all. Let this be the moment when Nigeria not only rewrites its constitution, but rewrites its future.

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